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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2005 Global: DFID’S Development Partnership with UNICEF: Assessing progress, defining challenges and establishing future priorities

Author: Keen, M.; Watson, S.; Watkins, F.; Goransson, G.; Gayfer, J.

Executive summary


The changing Global Development Context over the past 5-10 years has affected the type of work that both DFID and UNICEF do as well as the way they interact with one another.  Some of the most significant changes include: aligning their organisational business plans to the MDGs; signing up to UN Reform; the harmonisation of donor support; and the increased use of new aid instruments such as Direct Budget Support and SWAps.  One of the main implications of these changes is the need for a new way of working which is reflected in the need for new skills and an understanding of the role each partner can play.


The main purpose of the review was to inform the next evolution of the DFID/UNICEF partnership, by making an assessment of the current partnership, the Institutional Strategy Paper and some of the broader developmental contexts.  This assessment focused primarily on ‘development interventions as a recent evaluation has been conducted on emergency support.


The team constructed a Results Matrix to assess the progress made against the Objectives in the ISP and used an Evaluation Matrix to guide our lines of enquiry.  We interviewed development partners from DFID, UNICEF, other UN agencies and NGOs based in the UK, New York, Geneva, India and Mozambique as well as in Regional Offices in Johannesburg and Nairobi.

Findings and Conclusions:

DFID backs the UN Reform process wholeheartedly, and UNICEF has stated that it also endorses it.  However, both organisations will need to look closely at the significance of this to their work on the ground and where some aspects of UN Reform are more effective than others.  They should also acknowledge that change is a slow process, and that UNICEF having been a somewhat ‘reluctant starter’ has now made real progress in a changing environment.

The team constructed a typology in order to make some generalisations about the way the organisations can work together in local contexts.   Developing a common understanding about the “new” ways of working in each of these contexts and how both organisations can most effectively contribute to the achievement of the MDGs will be crucial to the next iteration of the ISP.  The following is a summary of the partnerships in each context:

  • Emergency Context – partnerships are likely to be at HQ and in country and highly transitory focused on problem solving and mobilising resources
  • Fragile Context – partnership is more likely to require a need to invest resources from both sides exploring areas of mutual concern, developing government capacity and providing technical support as well as establishing mutual learning and joint advocacy
  • Transition Context –   There are likely to be close relationships where both DFID and UNICEF have a presence, mutual support, lesson learning and advocacy around the MDGs
  • Stable Context – Here the Government is the key driver for development, and DFID focuses on supporting government led poverty strategies whilst UNICEF becomes increasingly an advocate for children and supports civil society, youth participation, innovative projects and provides technical assistance and capacity building to governments.

The DFID/UNICEF partnership is an extremely complicated one that takes place at many levels, both formal and informal; and, with or without financial exchange.  Although the ISP provides some guidance and a framework covering the engagement, it was notable that most staff spoken to from both organisations had not used it to define their engagement.  Performance is not uniform and both parties’ highlighted areas where improvements could be made by the other partner, but overall both organisations continue to gain considerably from the relationship.  UNICEF benefits from DFID’s technical and financial input, whilst DFID gains an inroad into Government, intellectual guidance and first hand knowledge at the field level.  The partnership also provides them with access into areas where they do not normally have a presence. 

It was clear that where DFID and UNICEF both invested time towards achieving the Objectives they had been largely met.  This implies that the partnership really can contribute to delivering development results as well as positively influencing the way UNICEF works.  Where the results have been less clear, both partners have not specifically defined what they wish to influence, what this looks like in practice (such as UNICEF engaging in SWAP process), and/or the agreed 0ISP Objectives have sometimes been rather simplistic.


A summary of our main recommendations are as follows:

  • DFID should continue to fund UNICEF Regular Resources (RR); Humanitarian Situations (RRE) and Country Programmes (RRO), with proportionally a rise in regular resources
  • The ISP should play a greater role in tying the various interventions together and along with the MTSP should form firm guiding principles and clear objectives for engagement
  • The partners should agree on a performance framework identifying what funding hopes to achieve and the impact it will have on delivering results
  • At a country level a joint assessment of the stage of development should be part of the partnership process and should highlight both what DFID and UNICEF should do together but also what they shouldn’t. In-country engagement can then be guided by this assessment and a reflection on the overlaps between the DFID office’s Country Assistance Plan (CAP) and the UNDAF/UNICEF Country Strategy.
  • In developing the partnership, the new ISP could focus on joint objectives, mutual obligations and accountability, and a shared understanding of responsibilities.  There are options and different scenarios that should be worked through.
  • DFID should support UNICEF in change processes which assist in UNICEF’s ability to adapt to its changing context, recognising that some funding will have a more immediate impact on development than others but some ‘backstage’ support might actually have a longer lasting affect.  These change processes may be different in different parts of the organisations but possible examples are: the review of Human Resources and Management arrangements currently being initiated at Headquarters; the pilot UN Regional Development Team in Southern Africa.  What support and what level of funding (if funding is appropriate) should be agreed through a joint discussion between DFID and UNICEF.
  • DFID could support UNICEF to look at three levels of performance measurement:  Poverty Alleviation, Organisational Performance and Organisational Change. 

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